By Leslie Wolf
Keyboardist and composer Jeff Lorber has garnered a Grammy nomination in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category, and a lot of notice, for his latest CD, Now Is the Time. It also earned the No. 1 spot in Smooth Jazz News' Top 10 CDs of 2010. And, critics are saying that with this release, Lorber has recaptured the spirit of jazz fusion––his original style––with the help of artists that include Jimmy Haslip, Eric Marienthal, Paul Jackson Jr., Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker and others.
“This record is a clear statement,” Lorber said. “It represents a real musical shift toward something a little jazzier and a little more exciting. The title has a very positive thrust to it, and it evokes a certain sense of being serious and taking charge.”
It’s been nearly 20 years since the last Jeff Lorber Fusion album. About half of the songs on the new album are remakes of his old fusion songs, and the other half are new songs written in that style, Lorber said. “It’s a little more harmonically complex and funky, and up-tempo,” he said. “I think people are ready to hear that, to hear something a little different.”
Lorber recently returned from a whirlwind European tour, where he and bandmates Marienthal, Victor Bailey and Sonny Emory played 22 cities in 28 days. The tour took them from Portugal to Istanbul, Turkey, and to various venues in Italy, Germany, France and Sweden.
Lorber said he was able to get in a little sightseeing, particularly in some of the quaint smaller towns they visited, but the weather wasn’t cooperative in late November and early December. “The walks we’d go on we called our ‘freeze walks,’" he said. “I really wanted to see more of Istanbul, but the weather was just too rough when we were there.”
The tour was so hectic that one month later Lorber couldn’t recall which town he was in when he received the news of his latest Grammy nomination––his fourth. Lorber said a friend in Orlando tried to call with the news, but it was about 5 a.m. on Lorber’s end and he was asleep. Plus, he said, “I wasn’t accepting any phone calls over there because it’s just so expensive to talk on the phone.” But the early-morning call prompted him to see what was happening, so he checked his e-mail and found out about the nomination.
“I really didn’t expect to be nominated,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition in that category (Best Contemporary Jazz Album). “You have to make a good record, but you also have to make a record that fits the category real well.”
Even though this is his fourth nomination, Lorber said it was still a thrill. “It was really nice to share that news with the audience that night,” he said.
Lorber said he feels that being nominated is almost more of an honor than winning. The nominees, he explained, are chosen by a committee that really listens to the music carefully. “Winning is more of a popularity contest,” he said.
Lorber is looking forward to attending the Grammy awards ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Feb. 13 with his band. “To me music is not really about competition, but it’s just nice to be recognized by your peers,” he said.
Fresh off his European tour, Lorber took off on a six-day trip to Tahiti for another gig. He’d played at a club called New Orleans in the capital city of Papeete a few times in the early 1990s. The nightclub, unfortunately, burned down, but Lorber stayed in touch with some of the friends he’d made there. And he continued to send his albums to the local radio stations in French Polynesia.
So when the opportunity arose to play at the Le Meridien resort in January, he quickly accepted. Lorber recruited his manager, Bud Harner, a former professional drummer, to play drums and rounded up some Tahitian musicians when he arrived. They rehearsed for two days, played on Saturday and Sunday, and flew home Monday after squeezing in a hike to see some waterfalls.
“We had a really, really great turnout,” he said. “The radio stations there have been playing my songs, so there were definitely some fans who were ready to hear me play.”
Next month, the musical genius who has quietly helped launch the careers of people like Kenny G and Dave Koz, will travel to the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, before returning to San Diego to act as music director for the Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards, slated for March 10-13 in San Diego. His band will include Tony Moore on drums, Nate Phillips on bass, and Dwight Sills on guitar. Then he travels to Reading, Pennsylvania, where he’s headlining the 21st Annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest with the Jeff Lorber Fusion band on March 26.
Lorber said he’s considering another European tour in the spring or summer, and later in the summer plans to play in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“It’s a global market, so I’m just trying to make the most of it,” he said.
Born in Philadelphia in 1952, Lorber began his career as a musician at the age of 4, with the encouragement of his mother, an accomplished pianist.
After high school he moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. Lorber later went to Boston University to study chemistry, physics and calculus with an eye toward becoming a doctor. After that, he moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1973.**
**The complete Jeff Lorber Story can be found in the December issue of Smooth Jazz News. Pick up your free copy at our radio station affiliates (see radio station page for listings), various concerts, festivals and select Southern California outlets. Or you can subscribe and receive 11 issues of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (except January), for $35. Click here to subscribe online today.
For more information on Lorber, including his complete tour schedule, visit www.lorber.com.
Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards
1100 Third Ave.
San Diego, California
21st Annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest
Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base
Crowne Plaza Hotel
1741 Paper Mill Road,
1977 The Jeff Lorber Fusion Inner City
1978 Soft Space Inner City
1979 Water Sign Arista
1980 Wizard Island Arista
1981 Galaxian Arista
1982 It's a Fact Arista
1984 In the Heat of the Night Arista
1985 Step by Step Arista
1985 Lift Off Arista
1986 Private Passion Warner Bros.
1993 Worth Waiting For Verve Forecast
1994 West Side Stories Verve Forecast
1996 State of Grace
1998 Midnight Zebra
2000 The Definitive Collection Arista
2001 Kickin' It Samson
2002 The Very Best of Jeff Lorber Verve Forecast
2003 Philly Style Narada Jazz
2005 Flipside Narada Jazz
2007 He Had a Hat Blue Note
2008 Heard That Peak Records
2010 Now Is the Time Heads Up International